Toronto Maple Leafs host the Colorado Avalanche: Game #49
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet Ontario, TVAS, Altitude 2
Opponent SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey
All streaks end sometime.
The Colorado Avalanche have won nine straight games, and have moved from the basement to serious contention for a playoff spot. Nate MacKinnon is second in points in the NHL and seventh in goals. Jonathan Bernier is on a hot streak, putting up fantastic numbers and winning games. (Remember those times, when we thought he’d always do that?)
The Leafs are not streaking anywhere, unless you can call a period of struggling a mediocrity streak. Maybe you can. Maybe that is a good way to look at it. Winning streaks need good players to fuel them, and MacKinnon is one, but they also need luck. Losing streaks need bad luck, and not a lot else. Maybe a mediocrity streak just needs a mix of bad and good luck, good or great players and some not quite up to it or on IR.
Both streaks will end. The Leafs will win a bunch, or lose a bunch for real, and the Avs will simply stop winning every game. At some point.
Both teams have some key injuries, and the Leafs are relying on their defence depth to cover for Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev, who are both out of the lineup tonight.
Projected from practice and morning skate.
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Connor Brown
Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Mitch Marner
Jake Gardiner - Ron Hainsey
Travis Dermott - Connor Carrick
Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak
Frederik Andersen - starter
From their most recent game, subject to change.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nate MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Tyson Jost - JT Compher
Dominic Toninato - Alexander Kerfoot - Nail Yakupov
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Patrik Nemeth - Mark Barberio
Sam Girard - Anton Lindholm
The Avalanche are a travelling hospital ward right now, and some of those players may change. Tyson Barrie pulled the Bobby Ryan manoeuvre a while back, but is skating and holding a stick while doing it, and he is on the trip.
Also around, but definitely not playing, per Jared Bednar, is Semyon Varlamov, so yes, you really do see “The Hamburglar” in the lineup as backup. He was a throw-in by the disappointed Ottawa Senators in the Matt Duchene trade. They always dispose of their players they’ve overpaid for nothing so they can pretend it never happened. The Leafs have an excellent AHLer wearing the A in Colin Greening thanks to that habit.
Sven Andrighetto, who went from press box in Montréal to top six in Denver, is also out with an injury, but could return.
And yes, you also see former Leafs draft pick Dominic Toninato in that lineup. The Leafs couldn’t find roster space to sign him, and he went into free agency and picked a team that was more likely to play him. In 30 games in the AHL, he has seven points and five assists, and in 10 NHL games (he was right about the opportunity) he has one assist. Perhaps the Leafs were right as well to take a pass on an NHL contract for him.
The Avs rely on one super line that is rocketing Nate MacKinnon into the Hart conversation. Their second line is (mostly) old, old-school, and generally effective at controlling the play, and occasionally scoring. The rest of the lineup is some positionally sound college players, some of whom have inflated rookie shooting percentages.
In the last game, MacKinnon ran roughshod over the Leafs, and Bozak’s line (seriously) handled Soderberg very well.
What we should expect tonight is for Kadri and company to struggle mightily to contain MacKinnon and his two large, blond friends. They’ll play a lot of ice time, people will be angry about it on Twitter, and they won’t get much offensive zone time. If the rest of the top nine scores some goals, the Leafs can win it. The Leafs fourth line should look good tonight too.
The Avs are a bubble team in the West, not very likely to really make the playoffs, but capable of it. They aren’t a top team, however. Bernier is a slightly above average goalie this year, who is quite the rebound machine, as you know. Like with the last two goalies the Leafs faced, this makes net-front presence even more important than it usually is.
The Leafs need to play the Avs with respect, but they also need to play their own game which is a better game. On paper, at least.
On the ice, anything can happen, so Go Leafs Go! Bust this streak.